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De-stress signals

When it comes to choosing a relaxing pastime, consider a healthy hobby.

chairs on beachIs sitting down in front of TV a good way to relax? The latest research suggests not. A recent Australian study has claimed that every hour spent in front of the box may shorten your life by as much as 22 minutes.

And yet we all need to unwind by getting off the well-trodden path of daily routine, so how best to do it? Simple – find yourself a hobby. And not just any hobby, but one that will take you to another place, calm your spirits, provide satisfaction and recharge your batteries.

It doesn't have to be a hobby involving physical exercise, though it may have a physical dimension. Regular physical exercise is, of course, an important ingredient for any well-rounded, healthy existence and should be there already. You'll find the 'healthy hobbies' we list below are all creative and will exercise the mind more than the body, which is very important when it comes to getting a good night's sleep.

What doesn't dancing have going for it? It gobbles up calories, enhances your social life, gives you a sense of well-being (that's the serotonin kicking in) and is just a whole lot of fun. But wait for it... it also does wonders for your mind.

An American study has shown that dancing is one of a small handful of leisure pursuits that help ward off dementia. Interestingly, the study showed that it was almost alone among physical activities in having that effect.

Learning a second language
This is another hobby with multiple benefits. Travel becomes more fun when you're able to speak even a smattering of the local language. This goes deeper than practical verbal communication (e.g. ¡Una cerveza por favor! [a beer please]). It also enables you to better understand the culture, since a different language embodies a different way of looking at the world.

Employment prospects can also be improved by learning another tongue. And what's more – like dancing – it is great brain exercise. A number of studies have shown that a second language leads to enhanced cognitive abilities and delays the onset of dementia .

British actor Laurence Olivier was an avid gardener late in life. He called it 'sanity provoking'. We know instinctively that spending time in nature is calming, but a recent study has proved it, showing that gardening leads to significant reductions in the stress hormone cortisol . And, of course, there are the added advantages of beautifying your section, having a supply of fresh, healthy food for your dinner table, feelings of accomplishment and the physical workout that comes with all that digging, raking and carrying.

Cooking is perhaps the easiest of all hobbies to start. Everything is already in place – we all have to eat and generally have access to kitchens. And you do have the time... it need only take 10 minutes to prepare a delicious meal. Besides being very hip at the moment, cooking is both creative and relaxing... it immediately takes your mind off your everyday routine, putting you in touch with a basic human need and its associated senses. With an endless stream of new recipes to try, it's also never repetitive or boring. Finally, the outcome is a social occasion. By cooking, you bring happiness to others, as well as yourself


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